Latvian Refugee Describes Rich Tapestry of Her Family's History in New Release by Skaidrite Rita Sparks
It's Thanksgiving and 85-year-old Karlis Gedrovics, in hospice care for his failing heart, fears that he will miss the night train that carries him back to his family circle in Latvia. He catches that train the next day, joining loved ones in eternity. Thus opens this poignant new memoir released by Dog Ear Publishing, based on a Latvian girl's diaries, recounting her happy early childhood on the Baltic Sea to escaping Bolshevik and Nazi occupation forces in Latvia that separated parents from grandparents, aunts, uncles and scattered them throughout three continents. It's not until one year after her father's death - 45 years after they left that author Skaidrite Sparks and her mother visit Latvia, carrying out her father's dearest wish to be reunited with his family.
In "From Flames to Freedom: Faith Rides the Rails," Sparks unabashedly shares the turmoil of her family's life starting with the Russian Civil War and her own frightening experiences during WWII battles, witnessing people being sent in cattle cars to the Russian Gulag and Jewish children marched to their graves by Hitler's SS men. She becomes a refugee riding freight trains to displaced persons' camps in Austria and must rely on courage, love and, above all, the faith she and her family share that helps them survive when everything is in chaos around them.
Along with the horrors of war and uncertainty, Sparks also shares tales of charming Christmas traditions like icicle popsicles, the joy of giving to charity, and sunny visits to the beautiful Baltic seashore. Eventually, the family finds a new life in a far-off land: the United States where they initially settle in Armada, Michigan. The gifted storyteller brings history to life in rich detail. Numerous black and white family photos, from the past and more recent times, add to the memoir's poignancy.
Author Skaidrite Sparks, known as Rita, was born in Jelgava, Latvia, but now is a naturalized citizen of the United States. She has worked as a university professor, librarian, affirmative action officer, medical practices manager and hospital administrator. Sparks, who has served as president of the Lutheran Child and Family Services Auxiliary of Michigan, was named Lutheran Woman of the Year in 2006 for her efforts in supporting needy children and youths. She and her husband have three sons.
For additional information, please visit http://www.fromflamestofreedom.com.
From Flames to Freedom: Faith Rides the Rails
Skaidrite Rita Sparks
Dog Ear Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4575-1531-6 324 pages $19.95 US
Available at Ingram, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and fine bookstores everywhere.
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